1. Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes: This is the first book I enjoyed trying to figure out. Some of the images from that book still haunt me, and I love it.
2. Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried: I read all the fine print on the copyright page three times, trying to figure out if this was fiction or nonfiction. O'Brien's brilliance made me realize the distinction between truth and Truth. I like to say he taught me how to read.
3. Scott Turow's Ordinary Heroes: The impact of this book on my life can be summarized by this question, asked of the protagonist: "Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?"
4. Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: I first read this in eighth grade, but only a flicker of it stuck with me. When I read it again last year, the Truth of the story rang deep within me. This is one of the subtlest, most terrifying horror stories ever written. And one of the Truest.
5. Stephen King's Cujo: This novel has some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. The takeaway point is this: true beauty can hide anywhere, even in the ugliest thing imaginable, like a story about a possibly demon-possessed rabid dog written by a guy too high to remember writing any of it.
So those are my five. What are yours?